Climbing Recap thru Pyrenees

Before the GC battle recommences on Thursday with three straight Alpine stages, let’s recap the climbing battles so far through four stages (really three with effort for the GC contenders). Below is a chart of the top climbers so far in terms of time lost to Thibaut Pinot in each of the four mountain stages. Remarkably, Pinot has lost time to just one GC contender on one stage: when Geraint Thomas took two seconds in stage 6.


The likes of Adam Yates, Fabio Aru, Bardet, Quintana, and Dan Martin can’t even fit on the chart. Those five on average lost 37 seconds to Pinot on Planche de Belles Filles and each has lost at least 2.5 minutes per stage to Pinot in stage 14 and 15. The top 11 on this graph averaged losses of 18 seconds to Pinot on Planche de Belles Filles and only Uran (stage 15) and Porte (stage 14) have lost more than two minutes to Pinot on stages 14 and 15.

So far, Landa has been next best. In stage 14 he was part of the most select group on the Tourmalet until Pinot broke away with less than 500m to the line. In stage 15, he broke away on the penultimate climb and only Pinot could catch him on the final climb. And in stage 6 he launched an attack which kept him away for a few kilometers and then wasn’t dropped at any point by the attacks in the final kilometer on that stage. He has a competitive Giro in his legs which may hamper him in the final week, but has shown the ability to attack from the pack multiple times.

Both Buchmann (3rd best) and Bernal (4th best) had great results in their tune-up races in June. Buchmann finished even with Jakob Fuglsang ahead of all other GC contenders in the only true mountain stage, while Bernal dominated in Switzerland where he was easily the top climber in three mountain stages.

This presentation strips out the impacts of the time trials, the crosswinds, and the punchy breakaways Alaphilippe launched in stages 3 and 8. It shows Alaphilippe, Thomas, and Kruijswijk have been almost dead-even across three mountain contests. Each has looked shaky once: Kruijswijk lost around 30 seconds in stage 6, Thomas in stage 14, and Alaphilippe in stage 15.

Projecting losses

These plots below show the time lost to the leader (Pinot both days) based on an estimate of how far from the finish a rider was dropped from contact with the leader (from GPS data and broadcast). The point is to measure time losses per kilometer; this isn’t designed to predict – for example – Romain Bardet’s losses when being dropped on the Col su Soulor in stage 14.



In stage 14 up the Tourmalet, the GC men lost about 24 seconds per kilometer to Pinot + final selection (Landa, Bernal, Alaphilippe, Buchmann, Kruijswijk). Riders began to be dropped almost immediately with Yates and Martin going before 10km left, Quintana and Aru around 10km left, and more when FDJ blew-up the group with a bit over 5km to go. The Tourmalet is at least 6-7% gradient for every kilometer in the last nine coming in so time losses were linear with Valverde having the largest deviation (regression line predicts about 90 seconds, he loses a bit over 50 seconds).

Stage 15 was both a shorter climb and less steep in the finishing kilometers. The GC men lost about 14 seconds per kilometer to Pinot. The linear fit (and forcing the intercept to 0) doesn’t fit this data nearly as well as for stage 14. This is probably because Prat d’Albis is very steep in the middle and less so in the closing kilometers (eg, the stretch between 9km and 5km to go where Pinot attacked averages over 9% vs 5% in the final two kilometers). So Bernal and Buchmann lost only ~5 seconds/KM vs more than double that for those jettisoned around 6-8km to go.


Projecting forward – and taking the difference between these two rates of losses – maybe we can figure on 20 seconds/KM lost on mountaintop finishes. However, stage 18 up and down the Galibier finishes with 20km of downhill which may allow Alaphilippe to claw back some time lost if he’s dropped earlier. Stage 19 ends with an odd category 1 climb with steep ramps to start, a gentler middle, a steep end, and then a flat-ish few kilometers to the finish. Stage 20 is the only true summit finish, but even that climb has numerous flatter sections. Alaphilippe’s road to winning in Paris may only require him to survive until the final kilometers of these climbs if none of the five chasers has a big attack in them.

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